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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Slap in the Face to Gay Americans: Obama Picks Rick Warren to Lead Inaugural Invocation

Above is an ad recorded by the porcine Rick Warren in support of Prop. 8. As John Aravosis says at AmericaBlog, "If you watch the video, in addition to invoking Obama's name to justify homophobia, Warren talks about how (he claims) gays are only 2% of the population. And how we shouldn't let 2% of the population decide what we do on this issue. Gee, wonder how he feels about Jews, who are also 2% of the population. Watch the video, and prepare for your head to explode.

Update: Have complaints to share? Email Parag Mehta, Obama's LGBT liaison on the transition team, at parag.mehta@ptt.gov. Feel free to share your missive to the team in the comments.
Enough. Enough. Enough. I've been silent or muted in my criticism of some of Obama's less than stellar cabinet picks and other appointments -- and there are many to complain about if you're a real Democrat or progressive. I've held back on criticizing Obama's reticence to say anything powerful or real during his transition about Wall Street's wholesale sacking of the U.S. Treasury thats been going full tilt the last few months. It made me angry that it was Blogojevitch who went to Republic Windows in Chicago and stood with the fired workers -- and not Barack. But Obama's lastest bone-headed decision takes the cake, and I find it completely intolerable.

As reported in a Politico article, Obama has picked the awful, money-grubbing, "evangelical," anti-GLBT preacher, Rick Warren, to give the invocation at the presidential inaugural. Could he have made a worse choice? Warren and his multi-media Saddleback Church racket were front and center in enthusiastically supporting California Prop. 8, which negates California's constitutional protections for same-sex marriage. In opposition to a recent California Supreme Court ruling, Prop. 8 returns the state's gay population to second class citizenship, something every single Democrat -- if not every real American -- should be opposing vocally if they wish to maintain a claim to be supportive of equal rights for all.

This isn't a theocracy last time I looked. Yet here's Obama rewarding a preacher who believes the entire population should be forced to live by his personal church's teachings. Warren has compared gay marriage to "legitimizing incest, child abuse, and polygamy." I can't tell you how much this disgusts me.

I wonder how Obama would have felt if Clinton had picked a Ku Klux Klan functionary to give the invocation at one of his inaugurations. You know, to bring people together, racist or not, so we can rise above "partisanship." I also wonder what the results would be if, even today, we allowed California to put African-American rights -- or maybe mixed racial marriages -- to a referendum vote.

Negative Reactions
I have to agree with Joe Solomonese on this one (see full text of his letter at the end of this post):

“Your invitation to Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration is a genuine blow to LGBT Americans,” the president of Human Rights Campaign, Joe Solomonese, wrote Obama Wednesday. “[W]e feel a deep level of disrespect when one of architects and promoters of an anti-gay agenda is given the prominence and the pulpit of your historic nomination."

This isn't the first time Obama has dissed GLBT citizens. Last summer gay groups complained, but were rebuffed by Obama, when an "ex-gay" singer led Obama’s rallies in South Carolina.

The Real Problem: Dem Politicos Have No Spines
Here's the real problem at the root of the issue: Democratic candidates and officeholders refuse to publicly support gay marriage, even though almost all of them support it in private -- or at least when they're raising significant sums of money and getting lots of volunteer hours from GLBT voters. Instead, they fall back on the copout of supporting "civil unions" or "domestic partnerships," which do not -- let me repeat that -- do not give couples the same or even a similar array of civil rights that are bestowed on straight married couples.

Like the other Dem parrots, Obama has said he opposes same-sex marriage, but he also claimed he opposed Prop. 8. Not surprisingly, Prop. 8 supporters used Obama's statements against gay marriage in their radio and TV ad campaigns to bolster their credibility. Heckuva job, Obama. Sorry, the integrity of "separate but equal" treatment of certain classes of citizens went down the tubes long ago, as Obama well knows.

More Reactions
Here's what others have to say about Obama's choice of Warren:

“It’s a huge mistake,” said California gay rights activist Rick Jacobs, who chairs the state’s Courage Campaign. “He’s really the wrong person to lead the president into office.

“Can you imagine if he had a man of God doing the invocation who had deliberately said that Jews are not going to be saved and therefore should be excluded from what’s going on in America? People would be up in arms,” he said.

The editor of the Washington Blade, Kevin Naff, called the choice “Obama’s first big mistake.”

“His presence on the inauguration stand is a slap in the faces of the millions of GLBT voters who so enthusiastically supported him,” Naff wrote, referring to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. “This tone-deafness to our concerns must not be tolerated. We have just endured eight years of endless assaults on our dignity and equality from a president beholden to bigoted conservative Christians. The election was supposed to have ended that era. It appears otherwise.”

People for the American Way also issued a statement critical of Obama's choice of Warren, saying it was a "grave disappointment." Excerpt:

Pastor Warren, while enjoying a reputation as a moderate based on his affable personality and his church's engagement on issues like AIDS in Africa, has said that the real difference between James Dobson and himself is one of tone rather than substance. He has recently compared marriage by loving and committed same-sex couples to incest and pedophilia. He has repeated the Religious Right's big lie that supporters of equality for gay Americans are out to silence pastors. He has called Christians who advance a social gospel Marxists. He is adamantly opposed to women having a legal right to choose an abortion. Rick Warren gets plenty of attention through his books and media appearances. He doesn’t need or deserve this position of honor.

Speak Up Dem Officeholders!
I hope other Democrats and progressives, including our new members of Congress, speak up and encourage Obama to rethink his selection of Warren to lead the inaugural invocation. To do less would be siding with the forces of backwards, narrow thinking and hate-filled bigotry as we move towards the second decade of the 21st century. You can't claim to be a leader in the push for enlightened change and do otherwise, at least in my book.

The complete text of the letter sent to Obama by the Human Rights Campaign:

Let me get right to the point. Your invitation to Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration is a genuine blow to LGBT Americans. Our loss in California over the passage of Proposition 8 which stripped loving, committed same-sex couples of their given legal right to marry is the greatest loss our community has faced in 40 years. And by inviting Rick Warren to your inauguration, you have tarnished the view that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans have a place at your table.

Rick Warren has not sat on the sidelines in the fight for basic equality and fairness. In fact, Rev. Warren spoke out vocally in support of Prop 8 in California saying, “there is no need to change the universal, historical definition of marriage to appease 2 percent of our population ... This is not a political issue -- it is a moral issue that God has spoken clearly about." Furthermore, he continues to misrepresent marriage equality as silencing his religious views. This was a lie during the battle over Proposition 8, and it's a lie today.

Rev. Warren cannot name a single theological issue that he and vehemently, anti-gay theologian James Dobson disagree on. Rev. Warren is not a moderate pastor who is trying to bring all sides together. Instead, Rev. Warren has often played the role of general in the cultural war waged against LGBT Americans, many of whom also share a strong tradition of religion and faith.

We have been moved by your calls to religious leaders to own up to the homophobia and racism that has stood in the way of combating HIV and AIDS in this country. And that you have publicly called on religious leaders to open their hearts to their LGBT family members, neighbors and friends.

But in this case, we feel a deep level of disrespect when one of architects and promoters of an anti-gay agenda is given the prominence and the pulpit of your historic nomination. Only when Rev. Warren and others support basic legislative protections for LGBT Americans can we believe their claim that they are not four-square against our rights and dignity. In that light, we urge you to reconsider this announcement.

Sincerely, Joe Solmonese
Human Rights Campaign

Also see my later post on this topic.

December 17, 2008 at 06:34 PM in 2008 General Presidential Election, Civil Liberties, GLBT Rights, Minority Issues, Obama Transition, Progressivism, Public Policy, Religion | Permalink


The coming to grips with how un-Liberal Obama is period is going to be almost as philosophically difficult as the economic downturn is/will be financially. We will survive it, but the letdown is gonna be as emotionally severe as the recession/depression is economically.


Posted by: scot | Dec 17, 2008 7:06:44 PM

You are right Scot.
Go to the change.gov site and voice your outrage.....as he said in Denver ....ENOUGH.

Posted by: mary ellen | Dec 17, 2008 7:25:21 PM

This is awful but it does go along with two other recent appointments by Obama. Picking Blue Dog DINO Ken Salazar for Interior gives me the creeps. He's voted more with the Rs than the Ds. Can you imagine what he will do with BLM land? Might as well have Bush still at the helm. This would have been a perfect office to give to a Native American. Indians strongly supported Obama across the board. Salazar is dangerous and is not on our side.

Then he picks Tom "I Heart Monsanto" Vilsack to head Agriculture. We need real change in farming so Obama picks a guy who's all in bed with the chemical companies and the industrial farm corps. Yuck.

Posted by: Randy | Dec 17, 2008 7:27:19 PM

If Obama wants to show how "big tent" he is, why not have a gay pastor or lesbian religious figure standing next to Warren to share in the invocation? Or give them a chance to do their own?

Obama keeps kissing up to the right but he is ignoring the core of his base in doing so. What single concession has he given us? Not one!

Posted by: Gay Citizen | Dec 17, 2008 7:50:11 PM

been hoping i didn't rue the day i pulled the lever for obama instead of writing in a true progressive--the system is totally broken folks--anyone who is actually a player in the election has already sold his or her soul...we need to take this tired old not working model down and come up with something that has a chance in hell to create real change!

Posted by: ms eeeeeeeee | Dec 17, 2008 8:08:44 PM

hey if you are as outraged over this as I am write this person who is the head of Obama's GLBT transition team: parag.mehta@ptt.gov
or go to the change.gov website and voice your outrage.
Or do both....but please do something...it is not right. People got to stand up for people.

Posted by: mary ellen | Dec 17, 2008 8:24:47 PM

Mary Ellen: On this or on any matter whatsoever, there's nowhere really to post at change.gov except on the topics selected for discussion. The board understandably is heavily moderated and that means fiery posts, trolls, or likely more than one post by one person per day is moderated, too. Meaning your posts go away. At least the moderator reads them, and decides.

I'm not complaining about the way the board is structured and overseen. I'm suggesting people interested in communicating with the transition team any matter use the email addresses to individual officials. One of which was provided in the body of the article above.

Posted by: bflaska | Dec 17, 2008 8:59:49 PM

bflaska, I left my comment at http://change.gov/page/content/contact/.

I sure had hopes that the honeymoon would at least last until inauguration day. Sigh. It's a very sour note that Obama has introduced, after a lot of lackluster cabinet appointments, IMHO (and I have good reason to be humble). I still hope that, when it comes to policy, he will make good decisions. But that hope is severely crumpled by this affiliation with the religious right.

Doesn't he know that _part_ of the reason he won is America's aversion to the alliance between the Right and the government, as personified by Palin?

Posted by: Ms. Ann Thrope | Dec 17, 2008 11:26:41 PM

This is not just a gay issue. Rick Warren is a Dominionist that seeks to over-throw our Democracy and establish a theocracy. Note the required reading at the Airforce Academy in Co. The purpose Driven Airman. They have already usurped our military at the highest levels. They will be coming after the citizens next. Obama needs to go through all our gov.agencies and pull all security clearances from fundamentalist fanatics installed by Bush loyalists. They are a serious security risk.
Putting Rick Warren up legitimizes the spiritual warrior nutcases ala Palin. They mean to instigate Armageddon and believe they can bring on the second coming. What are they thinking?

Posted by: qofdisks | Dec 18, 2008 12:43:37 AM

This issue, and the outrage attached, are front page news on CNN and the NYT online this morning. Good. Maybe at least this will force an explanatory comment from Obama and a recognition that he and Warren differ in some particulars. However, Andrew Sullivan said last night that those who think BO is interested in advancing the gay rights agenda oughta sober up now. I think he's right. Don't let those swords of righteous revolt rust.

Posted by: Ms. Ann Thrope | Dec 18, 2008 7:28:12 AM

This is just such an insult to gay american citizens. How heart wrenchingly disappointing. It for me brings up all the horrible fear and rejection i have had in my life. Hiding in the closet, drinking my brains out to numb out what the Warrens say is anti human. This choice of obama hurts real deep.

Many gays worked real hard for obama and their local senators and congressman to get the country going on a new path. We worked selflessly, people who read this blog know what Barb and I put into these local races and the prez race. It was great to see victory on 11/4. However Barb and I lost sight of a different fight going on in california. Possibly we should have been selfish and committed more energy to our own future, maybe it would have made a difference if I had donated that last 25 bucks to stop prop 8 instead of to Udall's campaign or Heinrich's. Maybe Barb should have educated the people here about the civil rights erosion happening in california to counter the rick warrens, and mormans from voting to change the California constitution to ban gay marriage. The first time the constitution has been used to actually remove a civil right.

Worse yet I do not see any of the senators and congressman we have elected going to bat for this issue. Not to try to persuade the wrongness of this rick warren creep from speaking. Nor that they would ever champion any GLBT measure.

Barb and I have been togther for 19 yrs. We are aging, many know I had a hysterictomy (which I postponed to help with the election) it was cancer, Barb has major health problems, Barb has no family ties from being gay -none. Barb and I are not welcome in Massachusetts together, tolerated but not welcomed. My mother only has been out to see where I live once in 96. My dad would never come here to see where and who and how I live, like it is so sinful.

Dad and mr warren....i work, i pay taxes, i rent a house and keep it clean, i have plants and birds, we contribute to our community as two human beings.

I worry deeply about the future. The future the selfish americans and corrupt leaders have brought us to, and the fact of not being sure that Barb will be able to survive if I pass away. None of my social security will be able to go to her, no healthcare, and none of my family will help her. I will spare you the whole list, but it is very unsettling.

We are alone, at times we can feel a part of but basically in this country we are separate and not equal.

Well there is my public rant. On the day we saw the first Black american get elected to be president, that very same day we saw a major bigoted hate vote to gays and lesbians, it shocked me.

And the fact Obama picks one of the main champions of this prop 8 nightmare to speak at his inauguration, I am so deeply saddened to see how far the gays and lesbians still have to go. I could go on, i am blown away by this and the absolute fact that no one will stand up for us.

Posted by: mary ellen | Dec 18, 2008 8:20:41 AM

Mary Ellen and Barb, thank you for the courageous and loving openness you show in this forum. You create a community here, as you do offline, by giving an example of vulnerability that is admirable, if hard to match. Your perseverance, tenacity, and ferocity are equally inspiring.

ME, I didn't know of your hysterectomy or its attendant diagnosis. Crap. If there is anything you need in the way of support or assistance, please be bold to let your friends on and offline know, so we can show you and Barb how loved and valued you are. Your families may have failed in that regard, but there are others who will eagerly fill the roles they should be filling.

You are not alone.

I will stand up for you, and I am not alone.

As for Obama and Warren, I disagree with this decision, too. I understand Obama’s "there is not a red America, or a blue America" stance, and respect it, though I think it will be a Herculean task to make the words flesh, to bring us within hailing, but not spitting, distance. I profoundly disagree with his choice of Warren, and have written to his transition team to let him know that, as you know.

But I hold on to some hope, maybe because I need to, more than because I have reason to. Of those who ran for president in the primaries, I thought, and continue to believe, that Obama is the best combination of positions and ability to make those positions real. I've been underwhelmed by most of his cabinet appointments, disappointed by a few, and only impressed by one (Energy). The giddiness didn't last much past Election Day, and I'm now perfectly sober with Inauguration Day still a month away. Still, I have hope that he will be more than a mere improvement over Bush. On many issues that are important to all progressives – health care, the environment, education – he may not get us to the promised land, but he has the potential to move us in that direction. On LGBT issues . . . I dunno. I hope that his performance in office will give us all more reason for contentment, if not joy, than his choice of Warren gives us. We’ll have to wait and see; we have less reason to hope now than before. But I don't yet feel hopeless. And I hope that my glimmer of hope might be contagious and offer you hope that is not proven to be cruelly false. I want to offer to Obama the privilege of, and time for, growth in wisdom and understanding about LGBT people.

Regardless of what BO does, and whatever is accomplished in California by the backlash against Prop 8 (did you see the other ME, Melissa Etheridge, on The View? Good stuff.) you should be certain that the fight that began (so far as I know) at Stonewall will continue, just as the fight that Gandhi fought against imperialism, and that Martin Luther King fought against racism, and Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton fought against sexism, continue to this day. You will always have allies, and better, friends. This is a battle within human nature, as are those other battles, and will continue long beyond our own lives. There will be reversals, and there will be progress that is maddeningly slow, but there will be no cessation in the battle.

You are wrong: the absolute fact is that there are millions who are standing up for you and Barb right now. We have no plans to sit down and shut up.

Solstice is coming. Dance back the light.

Posted by: Ms. Ann Thrope | Dec 18, 2008 11:39:52 AM

This isn't just about gay issues. This about reproductive rights for women. This is about separation of church and state and prayer in schools. This is about being dismissive of science and facts in lieu of crazy-assed ideology. This is about evangelical take over of our government. By characterizing this as only a gay issue distracts from the fact that the Dominionists are intolerant of anything not adhering to to their bat-shit crazy suicidal world view.
Half the people in this country hate gays. The evangelical right are using the gay issue to slip their leaders by and legitimize them. Using the gays only HELPS their cause because so many hate the gays or don't care about the gays. They are using you guys again. I keep hearing on the media about gays, gays, gays when it is about so much more.
Making these fanatics legitimate is an issue with far more at stake for the entire country.

Posted by: qofdisks | Dec 18, 2008 2:00:11 PM

gofdisks-I agree it is about way more as you say but it is the responsibility of other citizens to complain on that basis. I am gay and this directly threatens my opportunity to gain full civil rights.

How would you like it if someone complained that all you hear in the media is Hispanics, Hispanics, Hispanics? Many people hate Hispanics too you know.

Posted by: Gay Democrat | Dec 18, 2008 2:13:06 PM

Gof disks...you know how hard this website has worked for all dems even if we were distant in views. For now this is about GAYS for me and Barb and many other GLBT who are now excluded from this hope bullshit day.

I see it pisses you off too to hear the word GAYS....well GAYS GAYS GAYS.....go see MILK.

We have never made LGBT issues the main reason for me and barb being political nor on this website. But to see this outright hateful person be part of the special day....is really deeply troublesome. No one gives a shit either...no comment from Heinrich no comment from Lujan, no comment from Teague, No comment from Udall. What a slap in our face.

Wait let me get a pink triangle tattooed to my arm. Cause those days still exist.

Posted by: mary ellen | Dec 18, 2008 3:41:50 PM

John: one last note from me on this thread.....thanks for posting such a thoughtful piece. It is amazing how little is being said about this. My hopes are dashed.

I am glad you can send out the karma. Thanks sweet John.

Posted by: mary ellen | Dec 18, 2008 4:11:41 PM

Mary Ellen. I do not take it personally that you would lash out at me. If you look back at previous posts you would know that I stand up for EQUAL human and civil rights for homosexual people.

"it is the responsibility of other citizens to complain on that basis"

Am I not taking a bit of that responsibility in my post?

I truly think that it is a mistake to legitimize the anti-science fundamentalist so called Christian right. I think that separation of church and state is crucial for preserving our Democracy, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
These issues do not only affect our beloved gays and lesbians they affect all of us. By focusing only on one group such as the gays which almost half the population either hates or does not care about, then we stand distracted by a wedge issue...again. The media does not have to tell the truth about the irrational fundamentalists because the gay issue has provided them with "cover". Other unpleasant truths will not be brought forward.
There is so much more to be concerned regarding the takeover of our federal agencies and military and government by this crazy-assed suicidal spiritual-warrior cult.

Posted by: qofdisks | Dec 20, 2008 11:28:47 PM

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